Howling Trails

#spartanwc15 (part 1)


Three months ago the Spartan World Championships (Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe) weren’t even in my radar. After last year’s delirious race I thought there was no way I was going to put myself through all that again and they add 9000 feet of altitude to the whole thing.
Then the email from Denise Mast came. (the Spartan International Quality Manager)

 It went something like this:

“Congratulations for qualifying for Spartan World Championships 2015 in Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe!…. yadda yaddda… FREE RACE ENTRY… yaddda yadda…FREE HOTEL… yadda yaddda yaddda… aroo aroo.”

I like free. And I didn’t really see a reason why not to jump at the chance to go redeem myself and spend sometime in beautiful Lake Tahoe... for free that is. (and apparently so did 200+ other international athletes)

I had a pretty solid race season already. Landing on the podium in 3/4 Canadian races was is pretty darn cool, but I also raced in the Pacific NW race, got my butt kicked and barely squeezed in 11th place finish. I know my strengths and I know my weakness even better. I’m more of a strategic mule that can pace itself through 10 hours with a giant pack on its back (even if it’s only a 60 minute race) rather than the thoroughbred racehorse that wins the Kentucky Derby.

So where am I going with all this equine metaphors? I had decided not to race the actual championship “Beast” race but save myself for the “Ultra Beast” the following day. As someone who lives full time at sea level in a coastal mountain range where, despite having lots of mountains to climb, our highest peak is 6000 feet above sea level, I knew I would be able to race myself up a mountain at 9000 feet as fast as I would have liked to.


For the next 6 weeks I crammed hard for this race. I focused mainly on four things:

  1. Ascents (aka running up hill) 
  2. Ascents carrying heavy and awkward things.
  3. Ascents & Ascents carrying heavy and awkward things on tired legs.
  4. Doing the Grouse Grind. A lot.  (often referred to as “nature’s staircase” this is a 2.3k/870m gain hike)

[NOTE: Looking back on this now I would have added a 5th element: grip strength. All of my penalty burpees during the race were due to lack of grip strength causing me to slip/fall off an obstacle, but you can hear more about that later on]

Here is a break down the 4 weeks leading in the race:
4 WEEKS OUT (TOTAL:  90k & 17,000 feet ascent)

The Peak Of the Lions

The Peak Of the Lions

Mon: Crossfit & Recovery Grind
Tues: 40min trail tempo run followed by 35 minute 70lbs bucket carry
Wed: Conditioning Crossfit & recovery Grind
Thurs: Interval speed work with VFAC
Fri:  6k easy morning run & Crossfit & 6k easy evening run
Sat: Race Whistler's Valley to Peak. [3.5hrs and 21k trail race from the base to peak w/ 6800feet of gain and peaking at 7000' elevation]
Sun: run the Lions [6hrs and 22k w/ 5200feet of gain] & finishing with a 20 minute 70lbs sandbag carry up skill hill]


3 WEEKS OUT (TOTAL:  102k & 15,000 feet ascent)

Mon: Trail run [3hrs & 18k w/3300feet of gain]
Tues: Recovery Crossfit
Wed: Conditioning Crossfit & 3x2miles @ 10k pace w/ 5min rest (on track) & 3x10 bucket carry
Thurs: Crossfit & 20min stairs with bucket & recovery grind
Fri:  Crossfit
Sat: Finalyson 50k Trail Race [8hrs & 55k w/8200 feet of climbing @ easy effort]
Sun: recover :)

2 & 1 WEEK OUT (TOTALY: 110K & 14,000 feet ascent in two weeks)

I took it down a pile of notches trying to get wake those legs back up again after two hard weeks of climbing, squats and carrying heavy and awkward things. I stopped Crossfit and just had fun and relaxed runs.

Sun Peaks had a double sandbag carry which I loved!

Sun Peaks had a double sandbag carry which I loved!

The week before the race I did however sign up for Sun Peaks Spartan Beast on a whim. Len-dawg and I drove the 4hrs to Sun Peaks, slept at the Chateau Mazada 3, raced (len-dawg decided to sit that one out) and drove home all in 24hrs.  I went into race treating it as a final practise  before the Ultra Beast 8 days later. I attempted to keep an easy effort, similar to that if I had to complete two laps of the course. Work out any equipment kinks or obstacle strategies  etc. successfully did. I did however fall off two 2 obstacles I've never ever fallen off before causing me to finish in 5th. But Alas! It was a great day and great race.



Here is a photo of Lenny. Cause who doesn't like seeing a photo of a dog eating an A&W Mama burger.

Here is a photo of Lenny. Cause who doesn't like seeing a photo of a dog eating an A&W Mama burger.


(I promise the actual race report is coming soon)

Jess, Len-dawg and I packed up the ol'hatch back (aka Chateau Mazada 3) and made our way down to Tahoe over the course of the next two days. 

I felt strong and ready for the race, but was super worried about the altitude. Even the few races I did over 6000' I found quite the struggle, I couldn't even imagine a race starting at the elevation. Yikes! On the Friday before the race Jess and I headed down to Yosemite to try and hit 10,000' and hoping it would help me get acclimatized faster. We decided to run up Clouds Rest, a 20k out-and-back that started at 8700' and peaked out 10,000'. Oh and did I mention it also had the most epic view of Yosemite Valley. (please refer to image below) At the time I didn't know if doing a 20k shakeout run was the best way to get ready for a 50k race two days later, but now after the fact I'm very happy we did it. Despite struggling... a lot... climbing the final 2k and then struggling ... double a lot... even on the descent back to the car, come race day, I indeed felt like a million bucks and hardly noticed the elevation. 

[ The summit of Clouds Rest w/ view of Half Dome ]

[The summit of Clouds Rest w/ view of Half Dome]

Although I had initially registered for the Championship Beast race on the Saturday, but decided not to race it. This meant, for the first time ever, I got to watch the elite race (and by elite I mean that thoroughbred - Kentucky Derby winning - kinda athletes) Gotta say there were some pretty magical moments and I couldn't help but get a little FOMO watching everyone come in through the final rig. Oh gosh! What a day for the OCR community. The caliber of athletes this year was unprecedented.  I believe the difference between 9th place and 30th was just 10minutes. And the top 50 being all finishing within another 10.